Here's How to Honor a Loved One With Jewelry [PHOTOS]
When someone holds a special place in your heart, so can their treasured possessions. But just because a necklace belonging to your mother or a ring worn by a beloved grandma has sentimental value doesn’t mean you would necessarily wear it yourself.
It’s a state that one of our Jewelers Mutual colleagues, Kelly, recently found herself in. An heirloom jewelry set (an engagement ring and wedding band) passed down by her mother wasn't her style, so she decided to use the individual stones to create new pieces that felt more “her,” but still retained the spirit of her mother’s jewels.
We asked her to share the details of updating her treasured heirlooms.
How did you come to own your heirloom jewelry?
My mother passed away in late 2011 of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. She was my best friend, my everything, so losing her has been difficult. I'm so honored that she left all her jewelry in my care, including her engagement and wedding rings.
Do you know the history behind any of the pieces?
My mother acquired both her engagement ring and wedding band the year she and my father married, in the early 1970s. Years later, she customized her wedding set by adding her Aunt Ethel's early 18th century emeralds. The two were very close and my mother was able to honor that bond through her jewelry.
How did you go about reimagining a new piece from the old one?
My mother's engagement and wedding ring both had deep emotional meaning to her. They were the jewelry pieces she wore most. My goal was to keep her memory alive in my heart, just as she had done with her aunt, and these two pieces gave us the closest connection.
Up until this point, my mother's rings were in my closet, along with many other pieces of her jewelry. I would pull them out a few times a year, trying to relive my memories with her. But I wanted her memory honored more than just a couple times each year.
I knew I would never actually wear her jewelry as is; we just didn't have the same style. But I couldn't continue keeping them tucked away in a closet. So I decided one day to start searching online for jewelry design ideas. Ideas morphed into hand sketches, and I started coming up with design concepts. I started to see how I could make something new and vibrant out of these old pieces of jewelry.
When my mother was healthy, she was active and daring, someone who could bring a spark of shimmer into your life. I knew I would have her blessing to revive her jewelry again. And I wanted the new designs to reflect her personality.
With my vision in mind, I purchased one new earring with nine beautiful diamonds set in white gold. It was just the piece I needed.
How did you find a jeweler to bring your vision to life?
I went to two local jewelers and ended up with two very different experiences.
The first didn't give any advice on how to design my new custom pieces. I almost felt like I was bothering them, and they didn't care that the jewelry pieces were my late mother's and meant so much to me.
I then went to a second jeweler, and from the moment I walked in, I felt welcomed. They took time to listen to my story. They looked at all the jewelry I had, sized it, looked for any major flaws, and even took notes in order to give me a quote that day. They pulled visuals to help me understand when they were describing some design ideas. They were sincere and caring and acted like I was the only person in the store.
The saleswoman even offered to clean and inspect my wedding ring. She noticed my setting wasn't centered anymore and offered their services to fix it, even though I didn't purchase it there.
That's the type of service you need when working on such a sentimental project, and they now have a lifelong customer.
The customization process took about 4-6 weeks. I couldn't be happier with the results.
Do you have a favorite piece?
The necklace I created is my favorite because it holds my mother's largest diamond. I had it sized to a specific length so it could sit closest to my heart. I feel warmth, security and pride whenever I wear it, knowing my mother is with me.
How does wearing your mother's jewelry help you honor and remember her?
My emotions are mixed depending on the day, but I'm so honored to be the caretaker of her jewelry. Her pieces remind me of little moments with her. Growing up, she would get dressed up every day with makeup and bright lipstick, spray her favorite perfume on, and then put on her wedding rings. Her rings completed her. She liked to stand out and was not afraid to be a trendsetter. She was confident and comfortable with who she was. Wearing her jewelry helps me remember all that about her.
Any advice for someone who wants to reimagine their loved one's jewelry?
- Don't let something so meaningful sit stored away in a box. Allow the memories of your loved one to shine on forever.
- Don't feel guilty for changing the shape or purpose of the jewelry. Your loved one would be happy that you can find peace and happiness by modernizing the pieces. What really counts is the memories it represents.
- Find a jeweler who takes time to listen to the history of the pieces, and don’t get discouraged if you aren't able to reimagine the new pieces yourself. There are many jewelers who have amazing ideas on how to re-purpose jewelry.
Do you have some heirloom jewelry you'd like to re-design? Your next stop should be our blog on choosing a jeweler. You'll get eight tried-and-true tips for finding a professional, talented jeweler.
Make sure your precious heirloom jewelry is protected and consider jewelry insurance from Jewelers Mutual. No matter the type of jewelry you insure, it'll be protected by our comprehensive repair or replacement coverage. This means that with specialized jewelry insurance, we step in and deal directly with your jeweler of choice in the event of a claim. Click the button below to get a quote in under a minute. No personal information is required.